Light & Shadow

Got something I’ve wanted to write out for a little while now. Or, as is more commonly said, “I don’t know who needs to hear this, but…”

December brings early darkness in our part of the world, and for me, much increased pensiveness and moodiness. Something about driving down dark, cold streets and seeing warm light coming from house windows tends to make me feel a kind of sad longing, and I tend to get lost in my ruminations as I go from place to place. I don’t really enjoy feeling it, but have sort of accepted it as a given in the winter months.

Several weeks ago I had turned my car on to my home street and the old, familiar, sad pattern was happening again. It was dark and I felt that sensation welling up inside of me. But something else that’s happened a few times this year happened again; I saw the feelings and thought patterns coming and consciously decided “no, I don’t have to feel this way every time.” And then it occurred to me; the street, this place, isn’t any different during the day. So why doesn’t day carry this same automatic association? I supposed it was because my perspective was different.

It was like a lightbulb moment. All of that longing feeling evaporated as I repeated to myself that day or night doesn’t matter — it’s the same place. If I don’t let the sad stuff overtake me during the day, I don’t have to think of it at night either. It might seem obvious when said out loud, but to me it was an important realization.

A few weeks after that I was in Winnipeg for a First Aid training session (that’s right! I’m a certified First Aider now!). Winnipeg is also a place that has carried a lot of complicated feelings and associations ever since my time attending university, starting in 2002. I’ve had a lot of fun adventures there, but at times I was also lonelier than I’ve ever been in my life. I’d go entire days where I said no more than a handful of words to other humans, and usually a couple of those words were just a “thank you” to the bus drivers. And of course, since University terms happen over the winter months, the dark and cold of December brings a lot of this back to me while I move through the city. Even though it’s been years!

So the First Aid session was over and I was slowly driving out of downtown. There was still some daylight left but it was fading rapidly, and I knew sundown would probably send me back to thinking about those times again, especially since I was alone in the vehicle. Stopped at a red light I caught myself ruminating on how sad and depressing and isolating city life can be, and for my “proof” I was watching the faces of pedestrians as they crossed, and drivers in other cars. I thought they looked miserable, and no wonder! They live here!

Then, my phrase came back to me — hey, this place isn’t really any different in the dark than it is in the day. I drove in during the morning hours and wasn’t assuming everybody around me was miserable, so what was different now? Just my perspective. And then it dawned on me; all of the sadness and misery I saw in the people around me was just me, projecting my own history. Pretty much everybody I saw had a neutral expression, as you do when you’re going somewhere in your own little world. But I was choosing to read their faces as negatively as possible.

Again, my rumination evaporated. The rest of the drive out of Winnipeg was far more positive, and I found myself smiling and appreciating small moments of beauty as the sun continued to set. I’ve been back to the city since then, in the dark and the cold, and have felt far, far freer as I did so. I felt like, for the first time, I’m letting some of those old, sad days go.

Anyway, I’m still thinking about the idea of things being the same in light as they are in shadow.

Hey, it’s Christmas Eve! As I write this I’m listening to the Nutcracker Suite and sitting in Cassidy’s room, hoping she’ll eventually get bored of looking at books and lie down for a nap. After posting this I might lean back in this chair and nap as well. Anyway! I hope that your Christmas season is full of warmth and good cheer, no matter how you choose to observe (or not) or with whom you gather.

Thing I Saw: A rabbit in our backyard early this morning. I thought of trying to send Bentley the Dog after it but today it just seemed unnecessary.

Thing I Learned: Rocker Jon Bon Jovi got his singing career started on a novelty Star Wars Christmas album, of all things. That’s him, on the verses!

I’m Grateful For: Christmas!

A nice song from an even nicer wintery album that I discovered recently!

Out There

I did the thing!!

My comics are up and running again. It was a little scary, committing myself to this thing, but reactions have been positive across the board. If people aren’t happy about it, they’ve been kind enough to keep it to themselves.

Actually, as I remarked to Lori last night, over all the comics I’ve ever posted, negative feedback has been vanishingly rare. I know my work is pretty inoffensive to begin with, but I have to acknowledge that it’s a mark of privilege for me to exist online and post my work while dealing with zero trolls or haters. (This is not an invitation to start, by the way). Women, minorities, and LGBT folks share that they’re often criticized simply for ‘being’ in online spaces, and that hasn’t been my experience.

I have a bunch of ideas in my Google Doc for future comics, but I realized most of them are about my daughter / interactions with her. I don’t necessarily want every comic to be about her, because I know I get sick of people who won’t stop talking about their kids, so I want to save them and just sprinkle them in every so often. One reader mentioned bringing back the mailbag, which sounds good as well. Always enjoyed the challenge of responding to folks’ questions in a fun way.

The downside to this new venture is that I’ve reactivated my Facebook account in order to retake control of the Interesting Times page there. Facebook was always a good source of traffic and engagement, so I can’t ignore it. But, you have to have an active account in order to manage a page. In the gap, after ending the initial run of comics, I promoted Lori to page manager and emailed her the rare things I wanted to share so I could deactivate my account. But now that things are happening on a regular basis, I didn’t want to give her the workload of reposting every new comic and being go-between for messages and comments; that wouldn’t be very nice.

I didn’t actually delete my account, just deactivated it, and it was surprising to me at first that reactivation only requires logging back in. No big messages or text boxes about “your account has been dormant for X amount of time”, just right back to the bottomless news feed. Then, after a moment’s consideration, it wasn’t surprising at all, because it makes sense that FB would put up the very minimum amount of barriers to entry to keep folks engaged and scrolling forever. Guh, it bothers me just to think about.

For the time being I am doing my level best to avoid the news feed altogether when I’ve gone there to do Page stuff. I let my eyes sort of glance past it while looking for the link to my Page, in the way you might have to go past really objectionable or scary video covers to get to the family section at the video store.

Ohh, that analogy dates me. Uh, it’s like how when you fire up Netflix Kids and Jim Carrey’s horrible Grinch face is giant on the screen until you scroll down to the content you actually want, and all you can do is hope that hideous thing didn’t burrow into your daughter’s subconscious in that moment.

I was happy being away from FB and I’m not happy to be back. But it’s what I deem a necessary evil so that more people can enjoy my work, so here we are. One solution I’ve considered, and may yet implement, is to literally unfriend everybody so that my news feed is completely empty.

Thing I Saw: Miss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley as performed by the Royal Manitoba Theatre Company. Lori and I went last weekend as a night out in the big city, and it was excellent. Funnier than I expected, nice and sweet for the holidays, and the set was gorgeous. Click this and then click “Photos” and you’ll see what I mean.

Thing I Learned: A Charlie Brown Christmas, a staple of my holiday season, was commissioned by Coca-Cola and had pretty significant advertising throughout. When it was revised for re-broadcasting, the ads were cut out, and a significant number of tweaks were made to the rest of the special. This video details them pretty exhaustively.

I’m Grateful For: Supportive readers!

I posted Vulfpeck last December as well. This song really does sound like Christmas in LA, somehow

New Hobby Time, Continued

Since my last post, I’ve gotten pretty into the idea of bringing back my comic.

I know, right! It’s been about two and a half years since ending it, and for most of that time I haven’t really missed it. I jotted down a few ideas as I had them, but not with any real expectation of getting around to them. And then came last week, and my need for a hobby that energizes me and makes a viable alternative to video games. (Which again, I’m still playing, but sort of more intentionally, I guess)

I had a day off on Friday, so on a whim I took my laptop and trusty drawing tablet to a coffee shop (actually Whitecap Coffee (actually home of the best Americano in Winkler)) and did a test. I decided that I’d use the software that I currently use to illustrate for the Bolivians, pluck the first idea sitting in my old Google Doc, and just go to work, and see how it felt. Flex the old muscles, so to speak.

The result:

I mean, what do they expect! I can’t mark my own height objectively!

So, flexing those muscles felt: pretty good! In fact, it felt so good that I ended up deciding to try bringing it all back. Maybe nobody will care, but in talking it over with Lori I really think it’s a wise thing to do.

I made some tweaks to the frame (it’s a little thick) and wrote another test over the weekend, which also felt good. But now I’ve found I’m kinda killing my own momentum by getting bogged down in too many extra questions, like:

  • Do I make a splashy announcement video?
  • Do I want to try and make radical changes to the format of the comic?
  • How often do I post? Where? What about Instagram formatting?
  • Do I really want to stick with Inkscape, or go back to The GIMP or try Krita or This or That or whatever
  • How do I catch people up on the intervening 2.5 years, do I bother?
  • Do I restart the numbering sequence?
  • Do I overhaul the Interesting Times site?

And it isn’t as though those aren’t valid considerations, but today I started to think that maybe I’m just using all those questions as a stalling tactic. I think I need to just start putting my art out there on a regular basis again and answer those other questions as I go. Or maybe I don’t have to, and they really are all pointless. As I’ve said before, “perfect” is the enemy of “good”, and I know from experience how important it is to just start and build habits with the tools you have, and not worry about getting Every Duck In A Row before beginning.

It’s tough for me because I’m all about Rules and Formats once I get going (I mean, it took how many years of comics just to decide that it was okay to add speech bubbles) so part of me is saying that I need to make the important decisions up front. But maybe it will be a good exercise to hold this whole project with an open hand, as they say, and allow change to happen organically as I go, rather than bogging myself down before I even do anything at all. I mean, I’ve asked myself what a new comic template could look like multiple times in the past few days, and I really just can’t visualize something I like. So why am I even wasting brain cycles on it anymore?

One thing I want to make sure of is not to overwhelm myself, so I’ve decided that two updates a week is something workable. I want to allow myself to adjust that number upwards or downwards as I go.

Also, when I wrote comics Before, I strongly disliked 1.)using ideas that I had sat on for any longer than a week and 2.)pre-writing content for posting at a later date. My rationale was that the comic was supposed to be a “journal”, and doing either of those two things robbed the end result of its immediacy to me. I want, (actually, kind of need) to let go of those two things right now. My life is such that I’m going to have to write things down as they come to me, draw them whenever I have the space to do so, and post them later. Honestly, I am probably the only one that this matters to.

ALL THIS TO SAY: You are reading it here first that December 10th, 2019 is the planned launch date for the new comics! Updates planned every Tuesday and Thursday thereafter!

I don’t say I’m “excited” often, so Lori and I jokingly make a big deal out of it when I do. But y’all, I’m actually really excited about doing comics again.

Thing I Saw: I picked up Red Dead Redemption II for my Xbox One X on Black Friday, and the graphics are just incredible. I’m a short way in, but the game is very absorbing just to look at.

Thing I Learned: Cloudflare, a network security company, uses a wall of 100 lava lamps as a secondary source of unpredictable number generation.

I’m Grateful For: Finding a potential creative outlet again!

Somethin’ fun today